Kaduna, the former political capital of Northern Nigeria, is fast becoming a recurrent metaphor for violence and insecurity.
Banditry, Boko Haram insurgency, killings and high level kidnappings have forged a dangerous mix, making life a hell for citizens of the state.
Hundreds have been killed and it seems many more will still fall until the culture of impunity is ended in the state.
Hitherto, parties to the endless campaigns of violence – the Muslim northern part (the Hausa-Fulani) and the Christian south – had been taking their turns to spew violence, depending on which group was in power.
Now, it is an era for bandits, kidnappers, rustlers and insurgents. They are the lords of the manor keeping the security agents busy. Just a few days ago, bandits re-enacted their nefarious acts in Zaria were they kidnapped a lecturer and his wife.
We really think that there is more than meets the eye in the prosecution of the war against criminals in a state that is very prone to conflicts.
The spectre of impunity was traced to the Babangida regime in 1992 when widespread violence threw up some generals as armourers of militia in Zangon-Kataf in southern Kaduna, which left hundreds dead.
A general was sentenced to death, but the conviction was upturned later. It now remained a matter of conjecture who will bell the cat to start a punitive campaign against violent criminals in the state.
After a series of attacks perpetrated in eight local governments – Igabi, Chikun, Birnin Gwari, Kauru, Zangon Kataf and Zaria – bandits and ‘gunmen’ were officially blamed for the violence.
At the end, state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, unveiled the contents of a 2020 annual security report which declared that 937 persons were killed in the 23 local governments of the state from the previous year.
And there are strong indications that the insecurity issues in Kaduna are not limited to one ethnic or religious group.
This much was noted by the commander of Operation Safe Haven, Maj.-Gen Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, who stated that the activities of criminal elements were pervasive on both sides – the natives and Fulani herdsmen.
The commander said, “Any incident is enough to spark off crises in the area. There have been lingering disputes and animosities, banditry and cattle rustling there.’’
We note that the basis of the crisis between the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU and Miyetti Allah can only be resolved by continuous engagement in conflict resolution. SOKAPU says it is afraid of Islamisation. But in 2011, Fulani herdsmen claimed that ‘hoodlums’ attacked them in Zangon-Kataf when they went to graze cattle.
They alleged that they sustained various degrees of injury and raised the alarm on how innocent travellers were waylaid and killed by southern Kaduna militias based on their ethnicity and faith.
It is hard to understand why insecurity is pervasive in a state such as Kaduna, with all the security architecture there.
This is the home to the largest military formations in the country: One Mechanised Division; Army Depot; Command and Staff College, Jaji; NAF Base, among many other police and paramilitary organisations.
Kaduna is also home to a lot of tested military officers, retired bureaucrats and technocrats, many of whom have made the capital city their homes.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai has a good point when he noted that “peace can reign in southern Kaduna only if people agree to live in peace and harmony.’’
No doubt, the inability of the government to prosecute those found wanting in the endless trap of killings in Kaduna has been compounding terrorism in the state.
Perhaps it is time also to learn from the gesture of the late Governor Patrick Yakowa after the Fulani accused the natives of attack on grazing. In order to douse tension, Yakowa had set up a committee to find out the remote causes of the post-election violence in the state in 2011.
He recommended that compensation should be paid to the Fulani herdsmen “who suffered incalculable loss done to them during the post-election crisis’’, stoking a revenge which have made the achievement impossible. This gesture came just after the 2011 general elections when a ‘son-of-the-soil’ Yakowa, became the governor of the state.
In August 2020, the Kaduna State government had also imposed curfew in Zangon Kataf and Kauru local governments due to escalation of tension.
In a 2013 report, Human Rights Watch examined major incidents of sectarian and inter-communal violence which had killed thousands in northern, southern, and central Kaduna between 1987 and 2013.
It said the deadly attacks in the restive state had brought the seemingly never-ending cycle of communal violence and impunity in the state back into focus.
We commend the United Nations Organisation (UNO) for coming into the picture of the ugly things happening in Kaduna. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, expressed concern over the abduction of Bethel Baptist High School, as well as hospital employees in two separate incidents in the state on July 5.
He also condemned frequent kidnappings of schoolchildren and other ‘soft targets’ in the country, calling for the prosecution of criminals.
The situation in Kaduna is tragic. Killings there have been attributed to “the indifference and prevarication of state actors at both state and federal levels, who exhibit criminal negligence instead of being proactive in halting carnages.’’
The poor approach to the crisis was amplified by the alleged payment of some ransom to the herdsmen by the Kaduna State government.
SOKAPU had demanded to know the identity of the Fulani herdsmen to whom ransom was being paid, and the amount involved.
Previous recommendations should be looked into, and lasting solution must be found.
Peacemakers like former Kaduna senator, Shehu Sani, should be further encouraged.
We also recall that the senator currently representing Kaduna South in the National Assembly, Danjuma La’ah, said he had been demoralised, adding that the governor was ‘not cooperating’ with him in his move to end the killings.
That should stop.